A sweet six-year-old girl showed up at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts last week with a question. The occasion was a presentation by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who had an answer for her.
Anyone who ever felt that their curiosity was squelched as a child will appreciate the heartwarming interaction between the two. Tyson led the little girl from the audience, by the hand. In the middle of the gymnasium floor, he twirled in a pirouette before holding out the microphone.
As she swung back and forth holding her shirt out like a parachute, the child asked:
How can a first-grader help the Earth?
To answer, Tyson sat on the floor, bringing himself more on a par with her. He asked if she ever opened the kitchen cabinets, pulled out the pots and pans, and started banging on them. When she nodded, he asked if her parents stopped her. She nodded again, so Tyson said:
Tell them not to stop you … You’re actually doing experiments … What does the wooden spoon sound like on the aluminum pot?
This six-year-old girl is empowered by the astrophysicist
He moved from the subject of kitchen pots and pans to puddles. Kids like to jump in puddles. The girl said her parents won’t let her. Tyson immediately empowered her:
Tell your parents Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson said you should jump in the puddle.
And there’s a good reason for that advice:
You are making a splash crater. These are experiments. Just tell your parents they’re experiments and you want to become a scientist and they won’t stop you from doing anything you want.
Tyson let out his own inner child by doing (an admittedly adult version of) a somersault.
The girl brought the inspiration of Einstein into the conversation
The girl also brought some advice into the conversation. It was on the T-shirt she was wearing — an image of Einstein on a bicycle with the picture of a galaxy in the background. Tyson read it aloud to the audience:
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.
As someone who was punished for her “experiments” with the mystery of mud as a kindergartner, I was very moved by the message. However, what parents are going to do with their newly-empowered child scientists is another question. Hopefully, they’ll choose to support, rather than squelch.
Watch the video of the entire interaction here: